Inauguration of the historic Alberto Mansion

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The much-awaited opening of the Historic Alberto Mansion is on Friday! Guest of honor and speaker is H.E., Vice President Leni Robredo. Everyone is invited to attend and witness the culmination of a 10-year battle for our local heritage.
Bryan Jason Borja
(Head of the Biñan City Culture, History, Arts, and Tourism Office)

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Spanish and the Filipino Identity

The blogpost that I wrote about Andrés Bonifacio received too much backlash (even from a writer friend whom I thought has already freed herself from Hispanophobia). But it was to be expected because the Supremo has been highly revered for many decades as a freedom fighter who went up against “tyrannical Spain”. In the said blogpost, I also took the opportunity to include how Spain virtually created our country, that we were united under one language which is Spanish. That line also triggered another emotional comment from a well-known academic whom I also thought to know better than I do.

No, they’re not united under one language!” he said.

Time and again, I have always contended that the Spanish language is the basis and the foundation of our Filipino National Identity. Why? Because it is the language that united our various tribal groups, forming themselves into one “Filipino nation”. To begin with, one must first understand that the term Filipino is merely a concept; there is no such thing as a Filipino race because our country, even up to modern times, is made up of several “races” or “tribes” (anthropologist Jesús Peralta would rather call them ethnolinguistic groups) such as the Tagalog, Cebuano, Bicolano, etc. Secondly, the early history of our country, much of it written in Spanish, serves as basis for my views. In our history under Spanish rule, these tribes became united under one umbrella group which we now call FILIPINO. To make a long story short, our identity was forged during the more than 300 years of Spanish rule, and not before nor after it. There were no Filipinos yet before the Spanish advent. And even if we were not colonized by the US, our identity was already in existence — created, completed. It was already intact. Buó ná ang paguiguing Filipino natin bago pa man tayo sinugod at sinacop ng Estados Unidos de América. There was nothing more to add to it.

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A typical Filipino family during the Spanish times (photo supplied by the Biblioteca Nacional de España to ABC).

But to make it more clear, the Filipino Identity is the product of the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571. The Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language. Since then, the tedious process of cultural amalgamation among the more than 170 tribes / ethnolinguistic groups (particularly those who accepted the King of Spain as their rightful sovereign during the Manila synod of 1599) began. Cultural dissemination (which included Christianization and the Humanities) from the West assisted in this long process.

We Filipinos are essentially Hispanic —have become Hispanic— by virtue of History and Culture. And even Faith. And the Spanish language, more particularly its literature as embodied by the works of Rizal, del Pilar, Mabini, Guerrero, Paterno, Apóstol, Balmori, Bernabé, etc., proved to be the unifying thread in this development. No wonder former Senator Recto wrote that “el español ya es cosa nuestra, propia, sangre de nuestra sangre, y carne de nuestra carne“.

At this point, I should say that realizing the importance of our national identity will give us more dignity and nobility than this so-called “Pinoy Pride” that we have been harping around since the arrival of social media in our country. Let me just add that because of the Spanish language, together with the Culture and Faith it brought with it, I now know where I stand in the midst of the ongoing onslaught of neocolonization/globalization. 😉

It is, therefore, wrong and anachronistic to say that Islam arrived in our country first. What country? As mentioned above, there was no Filipinas yet when the first Muslim scholars, traders, and imams arrived. And they were not scattered all throughout. They were only in limited places such as those very few areas in Mindanáo. Even Manila wasn’t a practicing Muslim enclave (they were to some extent converted, but those who converted them did not stay long enough, unlike the Spanish friars who remained here and died with the natives). Also, and quite obviously, Islam did not unite our disunited tribes (that was one of the greatest errors of the Arab missionaries). Because if they did, then we wouldn’t have those heritage churches and bahay na bató that we marvel at today. Besides (then as now), the Moros were into looting and pillaging towns and kidnapping non-Muslims (most especially the Visayans) for their slave trade.

The foregoing is in no way anti-Islam but simply history. They really did it. And up to now, the Abu Sayyaf is still continuing that “legacy”.

To cap this off: by not using Spanish, by not incorporating it to our daily lives, we are in effect betraying Rizal and those many other great personas from that bygone glorious past who we have either enshrined or accepted as our national heroes. Much of our country’s (true) history is written in that language. Moreover, it is one of the most widely spoken languages all over the globe and is even the second most spoken language in neocolonialist United States of América. Indeed, the Spanish language opens up not just a gateway to appreciate our oft-misunderstood past but also a path towards the opening of new trade horizons with more than a dozen Spanish-speaking countries that will surely enliven our economy.

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